One of the most common questions people have is whether they should hire a lawyer to help them with a family issue they are facing. There are many great resources available on the internet to help you navigate these issues, but they often are only helpful in straightforward situations. In many situations, people attempt to resolve their issues without the help of a lawyer only to realize that they are in over their heads, often at a point when they have jeopardized their rights. If you’re wondering whether you should hire a lawyer, you should at least consider scheduling a low-cost consultation with a Seattle family law attorney to discuss whether hiring a law firm is the right decision for you.
1. Your Financial Affairs Are Complex
There are a wide variety of family law situations that can significantly impact your financial affairs, such as divorce, child support, and spousal support. If there are significant assets involved, you need to give careful consideration to the ownership of those assets, how they will be valued, and whether they should be sold or divided. In our experience, the more complex your finances, the more difficult it can be to determine what is “fair” in the context of calculating child or spousal support or dividing property in the context of a divorce. And unfortunately, the greater the value of those assets, the more likely there will be disagreements about how those assets should be accounted for.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate these issues and hopefully reach a resolution that is fair to all parties concerned without creating financial hardship. In addition, they can help with the valuation of your assets and identify potential tax and business issues. Working with an attorney can be a worthwhile investment in your financial future.
2. You Are Considering a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are essentially contracts that couples enter to address specific financial matters and other issues. They are often used by couples who have significant assets as discussed above, and generally can include the following:
- The management and distribution of assets during the marriage and after death or divorce
- Alimony or spousal support in the event of divorce or a waiver thereof
- Insurance matters
- Responsibility for debts incurred before and during the marriage
In general, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements deal with property, but couples can sometimes use them to address other important matters. That said, Washington law will generally not allow such marital agreements to determine issues involving child custody or support in the event of divorce.
In the event of separation, you should be aware that the courts closely scrutinize prenuptial and postnuptial agreements if you go through a divorce. As a result, it is critical that your agreement be drafted correctly and in full compliance with all legal requirements. If your agreement is deemed unfair or lacks the necessary formalities, it is quite possible that it will be deemed unenforceable. If you are considering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, we strongly recommend that you have it drafted by an experienced family law attorney.
3. You are an Unmarried Couple with Children and are Separating
Washington doesn’t recognize common-law marriages like other states do. As a result, unmarried couples cannot face unique challenges when it comes to separating since they cannot file for divorce (unless they have formed a domestic partnership). As an unmarried couple, you may have purchased a house together, share other assets and debts, and even have had children. These factors can be difficult to untangle in a formal marriage but can be especially difficult for unmarried couples. A family lawyer who has experience working with unmarried couples can help you navigate the following:
- Development of a reasonable parenting plan
- Child support
- Division of property
Many couples can address these issues through alternative dispute resolution without having to involve a court. An attorney can help you successfully navigate that process as well.
4. Paternity is in Question
Determining paternity can be a critical issue in two main ways:
- The mother needs to establish paternity to receive child support; or
- The father needs to establish paternity in order to determine his parental rights.
The paternity of a child is a very important issue that can have a profound impact on your future and the future of your family. Paternity can determine who is responsible for child support and custodial rights. If you’re involved in a situation where paternity is at issue, we strongly recommend that you speak with a family lawyer to understand your options and your rights.
If you know you are not the biological father but helped raise the child, you may be wondering what rights you have. In these situations, you may want to consider being established as a De Facto parent. This will require that you proceed through the courts, which can be pretty tricky for non-lawyers. If you are interested in being named a de facto parent, you should discuss your case with an attorney before taking action.
5. You Want to Relocate Out of State
People who are divorced or separated may want to move out of the area for a new job opportunity or because they have entered into a new relationship. If you have children, however, it may require some careful planning and consideration before you take that step. Many people don’t realize that (1) you have to give legal notice to the other parent before relocating and (2) that the other parent can object to your relocation. If they do object, you may even have to go through a relocation trial.
The biggest mistake that people make is to simply assume relocating won’t be an issue. They fail to follow the correct procedures and therefore put themselves at a disadvantage right from the start. An experienced family law attorney can identify the potential hurdles you face and negotiate a fair outcome that protects your rights and your relationship with your child.
Contact a Seattle Family Law Attorney Today
At Seattle Divorce Services, we believe that every situation is unique and requires special care and attention. Compassionate and forward-thinking, our family law attorneys combine deep experience with creative problem solving to achieve fair and equitable results. To discuss your case and how we can help, call us today at 206-784-3049 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.